– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

24 May 2019 

Your Excellency, Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, our host for this important occasion,

Your Excellency, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Special Guest

Your Excellency, Mr. Melescanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, who is with is today,


Dear Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is such a pleasure to join you for this Africa Day celebration – thank you so much, Fatima, for the kind invitation.

I am also delighted that His Excellency Ralph Gonsalves is present this evening. As I noted at an event on “small island exceptionalism” last month: truly, there is greatness in smallness – as we can see from the impact your country has had on this Organization, not least through my friend and colleague, Inga Rhonda King.

Dear friends,

Earlier this month, I was privileged to travel to Chad, Nigeria and Ghana – and I came away from that trip with two overarching messages. First, that we will not succeed in achieving the 2030 Agenda, and in making the UN more effective, unless we address the “solidarity deficit” in our international system.

This was very evident during my trip to the Lake Chad Basin. The countries that border the lake, and indeed, the entire Sahel region, are grappling with the impacts of displacement, instability and climate change that are largely the result of external actions. And yet, the burden of managing these challenges has fallen to these states, even as they work hard to realise the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is evident, too, in the global trends. Developing countries host the vast majority of those displaced by violence, deprivation and disasters – while rich states are reluctant to accept significant numbers, or to provide the necessary financial and political support for the long-term, durable solutions we need.

My second take-away was the commitment to transformation – for the continent, and for the world.

Despite the challenges that you have been discussing during the Africa Dialogue this week, what I saw and heard was a determination to “achieve’ what I called “the second independence”: Africa Beyond Aid; Free High School education and a serious approach to implementing the SDGs. I firmly believe that Africa has the potential to unlock the 2030 Agenda for the world.

Through the creativity and inventiveness of youth, for example. Between now and 2030 and 2063, half the global population will be under 30. And 42% of these young people will be African. The future really is yours.

Then there is the region’s huge economic potential. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing countries this year are forecast to be African.

And finally, there is your strong record of leadership and commitment to multilateralism, through: your peacekeeping troops; the substantive AU partnership with the UN and normative innovations, such as the Kampala Convention. At this difficult time for the world, when multilateralism is being questioned – even undermined by some – we need your leadership.

At this difficult time for the world, when multilateralism is being questioned – even undermined by some – we need your leadership.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

I very much hope that this Africa Dialogue, and Africa’s contribution to the on-going consultations and negotiations, as well as Africa’s leadership of our Assembly from the fall, will contribute to the renewal of multilateral cooperation that serves the needs and aspirations of Africa and of all people around the world.

I would like to conclude with the poem of my favourite poet from Senegal, Davit Diop:

Afrique dis-moi Afrique” :

«C`est L’Afrique ton Afrique qui repousse,

Qui repousse patiemment obstinément,

Et dont les fruits ont peu à peu

L’amère saveur de la liberté.»

Merci mes amis,

I Thank you very much.